GAYA: The number of haj pilgrims from the state has registered a sharp fall this year.
As per available figures, it has come down from 6,484 in 2017 to 4,500 in 2018. The first batch of haj pilgrims from the state will take off from Gaya International airport on July 14. Gaya is the officially designated embarkation point for the haj pilgrims from the state.
Confirming the steep decline in the number of pilgrims, haj coordinator Abdul Moqsit Karimi said, the 4,500 figure for the year was not final. “The final figures will be known only after the last pilgrim left Gaya. But the final figure is unlikely to deviate much from the current estimate of 4,500,” he said.
According to State Haj Committee chief executive officer (CEO) Arshad Hussain, altogether 5,147 applications were received for haj in 2018. “But a significant number of applicants would be opting out for personal reasons. The exact figure would be known on July 28. The last batch of pilgrims will be leaving for Medina that day,” said Hussain. The CEO conceded overall decline in the number of pilgrims.
“The decline was part of a pattern,” says Ashfaq Ali, former president of the local Mosque committee. He added: “Available statistics say that in 2016, the number of pilgrims was 6,589. It increased to 8,484 in 2017. But this year, the decline was very steep. An all time high number of pilgrims from Bihar performed Haj in the year 2015.”
Asked about the cause of decline in the number of pilgrims, Anisur Rahman Qasmi, former chairman of the State Haj Committee said he was no longer directly associated with the affairs of the haj committee.
But to him the decline was the fall out of the steep hike in pilgrimage cost. Agreeing with Qasmi, event convener Abdul Moqsit Karimi said, “In 2017, the expenditure for going on haj was Rs 2.47 lakh per pilgrim. In 2018, the figure has gone up to about Rs 2.9 lakh per pilgrim. There may be other reasons too like the overall economic scenario of the country, said Karimi.”
Haj committee sources claimed that the quota of 10,000 pilgrims from Bihar has never been filled and the surplus is transferred to states like Kerala and Karnataka. Before 2002, Kolkata was the embarkation point for Haj pilgrims from Bihar. Gaya was made the embarkation point in 2002.